The stimulant cocaine is fast-acting and produces a euphoric effect. The drug creates changes to the brain’s pleasure and reward centers that make it highly addictive. Over time cocaine loses effectiveness requiring higher doses to maintain the good feeling. Over time other alterations to the brain and body can manifest, causing permanent behavior changes.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse lists the following long-term side effects as commonly experienced by individuals who frequently take cocaine:
In the decade between 1999 and 2019, overdose deaths related to cocaine use increased 415.6%, with many cases involving synthetic opioids and other drugs. Approximately 68% of individuals who get treated for cocaine abuse also use other substances. Facilities like White House Recovery and Detox can treat all instances of addiction and other co-occurring conditions simultaneously, increasing the likelihood of a successful recovery.
Substance use disorders (SUDs) often create lasting neurological changes. Cocaine decreases the brain’s sensitivity to the neurotransmitter dopamine. After extensive cocaine use, more dopamine is needed to achieve the same physical responses. According to research published by the National Library of Medicine, “sensitization, which is a long-lasting phenomenon, is thought to underlie drug craving and relapse to drug use.” During withdrawal, the neurotransmitters remain affected and impact behaviors. Sensitization affects pleasure and reward responses. Depending on the length of abuse, permanent behavior changes may result.
When created illegally, cocaine is rarely pure. It often contains a mix of additives, including non-active ingredients meant to bulk up the product, so there is more to sell and more significant profits. Other drugs also get added sometimes, and people are often unaware they have bought tainted cocaine, potentially leading to severe injury or death. Common additives include:
The mixture of other drugs takes place in varying amounts, and the people selling it rarely inform their buyers. Therefore, those using cocaine have no idea what they are taking or what possible side effects may manifest. Many overdose deaths involving cocaine are due to the lethal additives. Unfortunately, there is no way to know based on appearance alone what, if anything, has been added to cocaine, meaning every time someone chooses to use it, they run the risk of a deadly reaction.
People who use cocaine experience noticeable behavioral and mood changes. Side effects are almost immediate, with some manifesting within minutes. Below are some behavior and medical signs of cocaine abuse:
Like many other drugs, the ecstatic “high” and energy cocaine creates is followed by a “crash,” which leaves people who abuse the substance paranoid, irritable, and anxious. Individuals sometimes use alcohol and other substances to self-medicate and decrease symptoms of the “crash.” Any self-medicating with other substances will increase the possible range of SUD symptoms and side effects. Self-medicating could potentially require you to undergo additional treatment.
The risk factors and complications for drug abuse include a genetic component. In addition, specific demographics are more likely to be affected by the fallout from cocaine addiction. You may be at a higher risk of developing a SUD if you identify with the following:
Currently, no medication exists to treat cocaine addiction specifically. However, symptom management for SUDs often includes medication-assisted treatment (MAT).
Psychotherapy treats various symptoms and behavioral changes. Therapy can help provide coping skills and raise self-awareness for individuals diagnosed with SUDs. Treatments that work best for cocaine abuse include:
SUD has a ripple effect within communities. Abusing substances impacts your friends, family, and peers profoundly. For example, being closely related to someone with a SUD significantly increases your risk of developing addictive behaviors and mental health disorders. Keep your friends and family safe by seeking treatment as soon as you recognize there is a problem.